From the Enlightenment to the burning of books, the Bebelplatz square experienced highs and lows of German history.
In this guide, you'll learn all you need to know before visiting Bebelplatz. Read about attractions on site and in the surrounding area, the history of the square, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Things to Do at Bebelplatz
Bebelplatz was laid out in 1740 as part of the Forum Fridericianum planned by Frederick II. Since then, the site has witnessed the city's eventful past. Today, it is home to many significant buildings and also serves as a venue for a number of events in Berlin, including the Festival of Lights.
Here is an overview of the attractions you should not miss at Bebelplatz:
1. Commemorate the Site's terrible History.
In the center of the western square, set into the ground, a memorial commemorates one of the city's darkest chapters, the Nazi book burning of May 10, 1933. Under the musical accompaniment of SA and SS bands, students of the National Socialist Student League and many professors of Friedrich Wilhelm University, now Humboldt University, burned more than 20,000 books by Jewish, Communist, liberal and socially critical authors here.
Named “The Empty Library”, the Memorial to the Book Burning on May 10, 1933 is a five cubic meter underground room set into Bebelplatz. On the walls of the all-white room are empty shelves for 20,000 books. A glass plate in the paving of the square allows visitors to see into the room, which is not accessible.
2. Attend a Concert at the Berlin State Opera
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden or Berlin State Opera is the central building of Bebelplatz and was commissioned by Frederick II between 1741 and 1743 as part of the Forum Fridericianum in the style of the Friderizian Rococo. After destruction during World War II, it was rebuilt in the early 1950s.
Berlin's oldest opera house is described by Briton Michael Forsyth in his book "Buildings for Music: Concert Halls and Opera Houses" as the "first significant theater ever to be built as a monumental, freestanding structure in a city."
If you wish to enjoy a concert, an opera or a ballet in the tradition-steeped opera house, you can find the
3. Discover the important Structures on Bebelplatz
The square consists of a smaller green area to the east and a larger open area with cobblestones to the west of the Berlin State Opera, which forms the center.
Around the square are the following important structures of Berlin:
- Prinzessinnenpalais: The Prinzessinnenpalais (Princesses' Palace), dating from 1733, was a former palace of the House of Hohenzollern. The former Prinzessinnenpalais is now the exhibition and event venue of Deutsche Bank AG's "Art, Culture and Sport" division.
- St. Hedwig's Cathedral: The Roman Catholic St. Hedwig's Cathedral was built in the Friderician Rococo style and has been the Episcopal Church of the Archdiocese of Berlin since 1930. After being destroyed by incendiary bombs during World War II, the cathedral was rebuilt in a modified form from 1952 to 1963.
- Old Library: The Old Library, formerly called the Royal Library, was built from 1775 to 1780 by order of Frederick the Great as part of the Forum Fridericianum in the Baroque style. In 1910, the magnificent building was converted into a university building. Today it is home to the Faculty of Law of the Humboldt University of Berlin.
- Hotel de Rome: This beautiful building was built towards the end of the1880s in the Renaissance style. During the GDR period, the house was used by the district leadership of the SED. After extensive renovation, the new 5-star luxury Hotel de Rome opened here in 2006 and sometimes hosts pompous events.
The facades of the magnificent buildings on the square look as they did before the Allied bombing raids in World War II. However, they are all just rebuilt and behind them hide modern constructions.
4. Admire Bronze and Marble Statues
The green space is adorned by the bronze monuments to Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau, as well as the marble monuments to Friedrich Wilhelm von Bülow and Gerhard von Scharnhorst.
They commemorate the most important Prussian generals in the Napoleonic Wars and are among the most important works of the Berlin school of sculpture.
5. Explore Nearby Attractions
There are many worthwhile buildings, landmarks and museums to explore near Bebelplatz. These include the magnificent Gendarmenmarkt, the grand boulevard Unter den Linden, the DDR Museum and the famous Museum Island with the Berlin Cathedral.
Tip: With a self-guided audio tour, you can explore the important Berlin sights on your own. We recommend the audio guide app Best of Berlin from our partner YourMobileGuide, which guides you with exciting background information to the most important attractions in the center of Berlin, including Bebelplatz.
How to get to Bebelplatz?
FAQ about the Bebelplatz in Berlin
Bebelplatz is located in Berlin's Mitte district, in the center of Berlin.
You can reach Bebelplatz from Alexanderplatz either by walking for 20 minutes or by taking the U 5 U-Bahn (subway) for 2 stops (to the station "U Museumsinsel (Berlin)"). From here it is only a 4 minute walk.
From Potsdamer Platz, get on the 300 bus at the "Varian-Fry-Str" stop and go 5 stops to the "Staatsoper" stop.
Bebelplatz was called Platz am Opernhaus ("Square by the Opera House") from 1743 and Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-Platz ("Emperor Franz Joseph Square") from 1910. In 1947, it was renamed after the co-founder and leader of German Social Democracy, August Bebel. However, Berliners still call it Opernplatz.
The square was the main scene of the Nazi book burnings that took place on May 10, 1933. Over 20,000 books classified as "decadent and Un-German" by Jewish, Communist, liberal and socially critical authors were burned in the middle of the square in front of a large audience. Today, a memorial in the middle of the square commemorates the terrible event.
History & Facts about Bebelplatz
Bebelplatz was laid out in 1740 as part of the Forum Fridericianum planned by Frederick II. The square was called Platz am Opernhaus ("Square by the Opera House") from 1743 and Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-Platz ("Emperor Franz Joseph Square") from 1910. In 1947 it was renamed after the co-founder and leader of German Social Democracy, August Bebel. However, Berliners still call it Opernplatz (“Opera Square”).
The square was the main scene of the Nazi book burnings that took place on May 10, 1933. More than 20,000 books classified as "decadent and Un-German" by Jewish, communist, liberal and socially critical authors were burned in the middle of the square in front of a large audience. Important works of world literature by authors such as Thomas Mann, Erich Kästner, Stefan Zweig, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx and Kurt Tucholsky were victims of the flames. The famous writer Erich Kästner watched, unrecognized and full of horror. Heinrich Heine's wise words from 1820: ''This was a prelude only, wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.'', are written on the bronze plate embedded in the ground next to the memorial to the burning of books on May 10, 1933.
Contact & Map
- Address: Bebelplatz, 10117 Berlin
- Public Transport: U5 to U Museumsinsel (Berlin)